I find they have subscribed a very large sum of money in England for exploring the country from the Missisipi to California. They pretend it is only to promote knolege. I am afraid they have thoughts of colonising into that quarter. Some of us have been talking here in a feeble way of making the attempt to search that country. But I doubt whether we have enough of that kind of spirit to raise the money. How would you like to lead such a party?
To George Rogers Clark, December 4, 1783
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders are always recruiting new leaders.
Clark had distinguished himself on the western frontier during the Revolutionary War, securing the Indiana and Illinois Country from the British and their American Indian allies. With the war over, Jefferson proposed another task for him.
The English, still smarting from their defeat east of the Mississippi, had turned their sights west of that river, all the way to the Pacific. They had raised money to explore it. Although they claimed their interest was only scientific, Jefferson thought otherwise. Stripped of their colonies in the east, perhaps they would create new ones in the west.
One way to blunt the English effort would be for the Americans to explore it, too. Those lands were up for grabs. An expedition would make a tentative claim. Would Clark lead that effort?
Clark thought it should be done but declined to lead it. Twenty years later, his youngest brother William would team up with Meriwether Lewis to accomplish the task.
Nothing came of this English effort, though 10 years later, a British party led by Alexander McKenzie did cross the North American landmass through Canada to the Western Sea.